Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Reposted from Jan 19, 2011 
A remarkable aspect of Norvig's book is the way she traces themes which appear in Blake's Bunyan illustrations through the work of his lifetime. This is prominent in the work she does in linking The Gates of Paradise with the Pilgrim illustrations. 'Gates' itself was evidence of the continuity of Blake's work stretching over decades.

The fact that Blake produced his images through engravings gave them an existence beyond the printed page; they also existed as copper plates. As Blake modified or developed his ideas, the printed images of the same plates could evolve with his thought. It has frequently been noted that the pages of his books were rearranged in various of the printings, or that additional pages were included. Also 'Minute Particulars' were added or emphasized or obscured according to the meaning he wished to convey at a particular time or to a particular audience. Norvig gives substance to the appearance of Blake's ideas as they resurfaced in unexpected places.

The Gates of Paradise initially printed with the prefix of For Children in 1793, was reissued in 1818 prefixed For the Sexes. Three additional plates were engraved with the Keys to the Gates and a final poem and image as an epilogue. This final plate Norvig sees as a link to the Bunyan illustrations which were produced in 1824. That is a period of 35 years over which Blake was communicating related ideas on the development of the psyche in the framework of the journey of a pilgrim (or 'traveller' as Blake called him).

Gerda Norvig states on Page 114 of
Dark Figures in the Desired Country: Blake's Illustrations to the Pilgrim's Progress:
"In this late revision of the emblem series, however, by alluding to Christian's identity scroll in The Pilgrim's Progress, the walking stick of the epilogue plate serves to emblemize the function of the eternal personality, which is shown to be basically at odds with those states of change we enter into and out of all the time, like sleep. The message is a terse development of the whole metaphysics of individuals versus states as Blake had refined in the years since his experiences at Felpham; and it is given expression in the poem accompanying the emblem in terms of the difference between 'Man' and 'Garment' - a difference that Satan (our own intrapsychic Accuser aspect) has not learned 'distinct to know.'

"Once again, then we see Bunyan's image of the Christan mental Traveler linked by Blake with his own system of imaginal representation with which the concept of individuation via the route of differentiating self from "state," from his garment, permanent identity from temporary condition, the "Eternal Human" from "those States or Worlds in which the Spirit travels." (J 49).

Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 198)
"Satan is the State of Death, & not a Human existence:
But Luvah is named Satan, because he has enterd that State.
A World where Man is by Nature the enemy of Man
Because the Evil is Created into a State. that Men
May be deliverd time after time evermore. Amen.
Learn therefore O Sisters to distinguish the Eternal Human
That walks about among the stones of fire in bliss & woe
Alternate! from those States or Worlds in which the Spirit
This is the only means to Forgiveness of Enemies[.]"

Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress
Plate 17

Christian at the Arbor

In this picture Christian has recovered his lost identity scroll which will allow him passage into heaven. Norvig sees Christian "retrieving his testament of selfhood from the zone of the state of grace (the arbor) so that it can serve him in the forward journey through all other states." (Page 177)

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